Sheriff’s Office: Kannapolis woman admits to pushing grandmother down stairs, faces murder charges

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — A Kannapolis woman faces second-degree murder and embezzlement charges after she admitted to pushing her 87-year-old grandmother down a flight of stairs over a year ago and fraudulently using her money.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office charged Sarah Elizabeth Smith, 28, of 112 Tanglewood Drive, with second-degree murder and felony embezzlement. She also has drug-related charges that stem from her Tuesday arrest at a Mooresville motel, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. John Sifford.

Mooresville Police charged Smith with felony maintaining a dwelling or vehicle for controlled substances, felony possession with intent to manufacture a controlled substance schedule II, misdemeanor marijuana up to half an ounce, misdemeanor possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Smith remains in the Rowan County Detention Center under a $155,000 secured bond.

Investigators said her boyfriend, Brandon Joines, 43, also of 112 Tanglewood Drive, was charged with aiding and abetting. The felony charge is related to embezzlement, Sifford said.

Joines remains in the Rowan County jail under a $50,000 secured bond.

Brandon Joines

The investigation began in October 2019 when detectives responded to a death investigation of Peggy Austin, of 112 Tanglewood Drive.

“The age of Peggy Austin and circumstances of the death had the appearance of a tragic fall,” Sifford said.

He said investigators continued to complete a thorough investigation and felt the crime scene may have been staged. In addition, the N.C. Medical Examiner felt the injuries were too severe for a normal fall.

Sgt. Ollie Greene determined Smith, who lived with her grandmother, fraudulently used the woman’s money. The detective believed money was the motive for the death.

On Dec. 23, Greene obtained a warrant for embezzlement. He arrested her on Tuesday in Mooresville. She was in possession of methamphetamine in her vehicle the day she was arrested, the Sheriff’s Office said.

After a lengthy interview with Smith, she confessed to pushing her grandmother down the stairs. Smith was placed in the Rowan County jail under an initial $50,000 secured bond. Another warrant for Smith’s arrest was obtained for murder. Smith was given an additional $100,000 secured bond.